Developing Heritage Trails in Historic Yogyakarta and Batavia

AusHeritage is currently engaged in two projects in Indonesia, led by Rodney Jensen, an AusHeritage Member (supported by Members, Professor Ken Taylor, Co-Director, Cultural Research Centre, University of Canberra, Graham Brook, Graham Brooks & Associates and Guy Petherbridge, Cultural Asset Management & Heritage Technologies) – and underwritten by the Australia-Indonesia Institute (a bilateral country council of DFAT) – to develop heritage trails for the historic areas of the walled Kraton of Yogyakarta and the old Dutch capital area of Batavia and its port of Sunda Kelapa in Jakarta. Both sites are of immense heritage significance and face extreme challenges posed by the impact of a rapidly growing and changing society and constraints on preservation and conservation resources.

Behind the immense walls of the old city of Yogyakarta, the seat of the Sultan, lies a grid of narrow roads and alley ways lined with small cottages and vibrant gardens of the servants of the court, regal quarters and ruins. The air is full of the noise and fumes of traffic and the intoxicating scents of spices and blooms common to this part of Java. The Sultan’s palace occupies a central location in the Kraton, opening out onto large open squares which were important meeting places for the people as well as a venue for ceremonial occasions, festivities and markets. Nearby, the once stately and now forlorn ruins of a former pleasure complex know as the Taman Sari contains exotic towers and ornamented bathing pools.

At its height, Batavia and its port were protected by massive fortifications and serviced by a network of canals, lined with Dutch-style buildings and with many hectares of warehouses serving the Indies trade. Despite its historic significance, Batavia is a sadly neglected precinct which runs the risk of disappearing completely. The most intact quarter is Sunda Kelapa where the romantic-looking large Pinisi sailing vessels can be seen loading cargo for the far flung parts of the archipelago.

The care of these sites poses an enormous challenge to the Indonesian heritage authorities. With a relatively small aid budget at its disposal AusHeritage recommended heritage trails (usually comprising a brief guide book and map – now increasingly also available as an Internet resource – leading visitors through a sequences of appropriately signed locations)) as a very simple, inexpensive and proven means to achieve some lasting conservation benefits.

The Kraton Trail has now been implemented after two years of preparation. It underwent a trial in August 2002 including the guiding of local primary school children around the precinct in pony traps The trial was managed and planned by architectural students from the University of Gadjah Mada. American Express has provided US$30,000.00 in sponsorship funds for the Trail which are managed by the Yogyakarta Heritage Society.

The Batavia Trail, which was granted Australian Government funding by the Australian Government in late 2001 has just commenced the planning stages. Both projects have relied on the involvement and partnership of local heritage experts, who will be responsible for final implementation and management. The Yogyakarta Heritage Trail involves the Yogyakarta Heritage Society and the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Gajah Mada while our principal Indonesian collaborators in the Batavia Heritage Trail are the Sunda Kelapa Waterfront Tourism Management Board (a branch of the Jakarta City Government) – this organization has recently published River Walk: Sunda Kelapa Jakarta under the auspices of the Jakarta City Government.

Indonesia is currently in a critical stage of its development where a reduction in pressure for redevelopment has produced a window of opportunity for conservation of historic buildings and places throughout the country. There is no lack of local professional skill and expertise in the heritage field. In the past decade there has been a new wave of well-trained graduates, dedicated and highly articulate teachers and professions who are striving to develop public awareness of pressing heritage issues in a climate of extreme financial constraint in public expenditures. Through projects such as those undertaken by AusHeritage in collaboration with our Indonesian colleagues, Australia is positioned to play a positive role in building creative and substantive cultural bridges.

For further information on these projects please contact Rodney Jensen, Rodney Jensen & Associates Pty Ltd at rjensen@triode.net.au.

AusHeritage is a network of Australian cultural heritage management organisations, established by the Australian Government in 1996. The network aims to facilitate the engagement of practitioners and organisations for the Australian heritage industry in the overseas arena.

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